5 – MISTERWIVES at the Fillmore – Oct. 19
The first time I saw No Doubt was in 2001. But that point they were probably at the height of their career, and have been in steady decline ever since. I imagine that seeing MisterWives now is a close equivalent is see the latter band as it was on its ascent. The New York pop-ska band is still young, but as it showed at this gig, has grown quickly as it balances musicality and live performance. Gwen Stefani should be proud.
4 – MARINA AND THE DIAMONDS at the Warfield – April 17
Marina Diamandis has one of the most fervent fanbases I’ve ever encountered, and in the United Kingdom and Europe, her voice fills arenas. In the United States, she’s still a club performer, though those who know her love her. This was one of her three-sold out Bay Area performances in 2015 (two followed in the fall, and this was more of a promotional stop than a full-on tour). Yet I thought the later shows, with larger-than-life LCD screens and multiple wardrobe changes, were a bit more distracting. Diamondis still performed with her usual pomp, but without the distractions, I was able to concentrate more on her and her talented band than watching a movie.
3 – (TIE) U2 at the Los Angeles Forum – May 31 and June 3
After considering a choice for several months, I couldn’t pick a favorite between these two of five Los Angeles shows. On the one hand, May 31 featured full-band versions of “Angel of Harlem” and “When Love Comes to Town.” That show closed with “40″ to honor longtime band road manager Dennis Sheehan, who had suddenly passed away. On the other, June 3 had the tour premiers of “Volcano” (much better live than on record) and “Ordinary Love,” (about what you’d expect), as well as one of the few performances of my favorite song on “Songs of Innocence,” “The Troubles.” The earlier show was a much more coherent set, while the latter felt more spontaneous. Both moved thousands of people through various stages of heartbreak, anger and joy. Both were better than either of the two San Jose concerts two weeks prior.
2 – THE SONICS at the Fillmore – May 8
This was truly special: The band that very possibly created garage rock, now in their 70s, still giving everything they’ve got. And on this night, they had immeasurable vigor and focus. Wearing matching suits, the band put on a thoroughly entertaining and energy-filled filled performance. The shame was this was not a sell-out, and The Sonics would have educated fans of the bands they inspired, had more of them attended. Their newer material fit right alongside classics like “Strychnine,” “The Witch,” and “Have Love Will Travel.”
1 – U2 at the Roxy in Los Angeles – May 28
It’s difficult to compare this show to anything else I’ve ever experienced, but as it’s not an Innocence and Experience Tour concert, I’m making an exception to my own rule (no more than one show for any artist on the list). First, there’s the setlist, which consisted mainly of deep—or, at least, old—cuts, including “The Ocean,” (first time performed since 2005) and “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” (first time since 2001). Then there’s the intimacy of U2 in a venue with roughly 350 other people; everyone was practically on top of the stage and the only time this year Bono actually went crowd-surfing. And this show was nearly impossible to get in to. Not even my press credentials cut it. It came down to a radio contest (as it did for most non-celebrities inside the Roxy that night) after hundreds of busy dial tones for weeks-on-end. This wasn’t the best U2 show I’ve ever seen. But it’s probably the most unique.